I like watching people fall over. Always have, always will. People hurting themselves is funny; it’s a universal truth. Not excessively of course, I’m no psychopath, but seeing someone clumsily fall onto their backside or bump their head is good old-fashioned low brow entertainment. From a kid watching Takeshi’s Castle to an adult watching Jackass, I can’t get enough. My latest obsession is Netflix’s game show Floor is Lava, which I’m finding incredibly enjoyable despite, or maybe because, of its very American sensibilities.
Essentially being a big budget version of the children’s game of hopping between items of furniture, which I absolutely do not still play and you can’t prove otherwise, Floor is Lava pits teams of three against each other in a race across a booby-trapped room where the floor actually is lava – or water, corn-starch, and xanthan gum according to IMDB. It’s all family-friendly fun and games until someone slips and destroys their face on a hard surface with a satisfying crunch. Cue cackling from the viewer.
Why the show has quickly become a favourite of mine is because it works on the same level as a schlocky slasher horror movie. The contestants, like characters in a film, are so incredibly annoying that I want to watch them die, or at least fall into lava and pretend to die. Again, not a psychopath. They are arrogant and so incredibly loud, every cliché a British person has towards Americans personified by almost every team in the show. Usually, this would stop me watching but in Floor is Lava I can’t get enough of them because I know, at any second, they could fall over, hurt themselves, and perish in the flames. If I happen to catch a glimpse of Love Island while channel surfing, I can’t help but hope for a tsunami but I know my prayers will never be answered. Yet Floor is Lava delivers, and the tsunami is made of liquid hot magma.
The gimmicks of the teams on the show are all incredibly contrived and just an excuse to group three irritating people together for viewing pleasure. There’s a team called ‘Bad Daditude’ whose whole gimmick is that they are dads but one of them isn’t even a dad, he’s an uncle. There are irritating triplets who claim to be 28 but look like 50-year-olds. But the season – which is only five episodes, what the hell?! – saves the best for last. Racing each other are teams of influencers, reality stars, and YouTubers. The holy trinity of nitwits. Watching them melt is the most jubilant television of the decade.
Floor is Lava is possibly the loudest show currently streaming. I have to watch it on incredibly low volume but somehow host Rutledge Wood still comes through too loud. The contestants are not only loud on their runs of the course, with their terrible attempts at banter and celebrating making the easiest jump like they’ve just won Olympic gold, but now, a change for season 2, they watch from the side-lines while the next team is going. That means by the last round there are ten screaming Americans onscreen at the same time. And while they watch, the ‘lava’ on their skin is slowly drying and congealing making this disgusting sticky film that makes me want to jump in the shower. I would love to see a team of Brits tackle the course next season and have them be totally nonplussed and not be screaming maniacs as a fun contrast to the usual contestants.
While the fun of Floor is Lava is that it is an annoying show that then jettisons the annoying aspects as they ‘die’ in the lava, creating a pleasure moment of calm and quiet, there are a few things that are genuinely irritating about it. Why is it not ‘The’ Floor is Lava? What’s wrong with a definite article these days? There are some crossovers with other Netflix shows, like Stranger Things and some reality show I’ve never heard of but where’s the Mindhunter serial killer themed episode? Okay, maybe I’m a little bit of a psychopath. And the final of each episode needs overhauling for future seasons. Watching people clamber up a slippery plastic volcano is too dull and easy. It’s obvious who the winners will be from the first ten seconds and barely anyone falls in. It would be better just to have the winning teams race each other on the course at the same time, which would lead them to make bold choices and have more spectacular falls.
That’s the reason we’re watching: to see the annoying people fall into the lava. Although not too quickly. They can bang their shins on the hard edges of the tables first. Okay, fine, I admit it, maybe I am a little bit of a psychopath.
Have you delayed watching the latest season of Stranger Things to watch Floor is Lava instead too? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.